A legal challenge to Islands Hospice's effort to establish an inpatient hospice facility in a Kahului home was dismissed by a 2nd Circuit Court judge Friday.
Dr. Michael Duick, Islands Hospice chief executive officer and medical director, told The Maui News that Judge Peter Cahill rejected the challenge by Hospice Maui and upheld the decision by the State Health Planning and Development Agency to grant Island Hospice a certificate of need to open up an inpatient hospice facility and to provide outpatient hospice services on Maui.
"We look forward to bringing our care and compassion to Maui. We are pleased that the Honorable Peter T. Cahill has ruled that our certificate of need should stand. There is a clear and compelling need for additional end-of-life care options here," Duick said in an email.
The longtime nonprofit Hospice Maui had wanted the court to ask the state to implement a full review process rather than the abbreviated review process used in the nonprofit Islands Hospice application. With a full review process, Hospice Maui had said that the Maui community could decide if another hospice would be good for the community. The agency cited testimony from Maui health care workers, who said that Maui's population is too small for two hospices.
Hospice Maui has been moving along with its own plans for establishing an inpatient hospice facility, a five-bedroom facility in Wailuku. Friday's ruling will have no effect on Hospice Maui's plans, said Greg LaGoy, chief executive officer.
"While we had hoped for an opportunity to have Maui County's Tri-Isle Subarea Council participate in the CON (certificate of need) process, our appeal was denied," said LaGoy in an email. "We are thankful for the substantial assistance we received from those involved in this appeal process with us, and we look forward to continuing to serve our community with the highest quality hospice services available."
With the obstacle removed by the courts, Duick said that Islands Hospice can move full steam ahead with its plans for a seven-bed facility at a home on Makalii Street in Kahului. Islands Hospice has purchased the property and is currently in the process of renovating the home to meet government guidelines.
As for when the facility will be operational, Duick said that it's "hard to say right now." The timing would depend on the schedules of subcontractors and other factors. He did say that the home and outpatient services could be available on Maui as early as the next two or three months.
Last July, Islands Hospice, which also has outpatient services and an inpatient unit in Palolo Valley on Oahu, received a certificate of need from SHPDA to go ahead with its facility plans.
But in October, Hospice Maui asked a court to deny the permit, saying that Islands Hospice's application was reviewed only by SHPDA staff, using an abbreviated "administrative review" process. The administrative review bypasses the "standard review" process in which input is gathered and considered by a panel consisting of Maui citizens called the Tri-Isle Subarea Council, Hospice Maui said.
Hospice Maui asked the judge to require SHPDA to re-examine Islands Hospice's application and to employ the standard review process to allow Maui residents to participate in deciding whether another hospice on Maui was in the best interest of the community. There was a question of whether the population could support both hospices and whether the duplication of services would dilute the ability to hire qualified staff, Hospice Maui said.
Duick countered, saying in his news release that hospice utilization on Maui falls "substantially below" both the statewide and national averages.
"We firmly believe that the addition of our hospice services, alongside the quality care provided by Hospice Maui, will allow the citizens of Maui access to the same level of hospice care that is available to residents of Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii," Duick said.
Friday's ruling comes about a month after a draft environmental assessment was issued for Hospice Maui's own facility, Hale Ho'olu'olu. It is proposed at the agency's current site along Mahalani Street where it intersects at Maui Lani Parkway near Maui Memorial Medical Center. The 4,500-square-foot single-story facility will be developed adjacent to and east of the existing Hospice Maui offices and multipurpose building. Hospice Maui leases the 4-acre site from Maui County.
The new $1.6 million facility will consist of five bedrooms and allow Hospice Maui to offer inpatient services to patients who may require full-time care, according to the draft report. Currently, Hospice Maui cares for terminally ill patients in their homes, where most patients prefer to spend their final days, and at Hale Makua and Roselani Place.
The facility also will have two-and-a-half bathrooms, a kitchen and a family room.
The $1.6 million has been raised mostly through private donations, said LaGoy, but Hospice Maui did recieve $250,000 from Maui County and $500,000 from the state.
LaGoy hoped to have a contractor selected for the project by the middle of next week. If things go as planned, he said that ground breaking could begin in June, with construction taking about a year.
Because Hospice Maui will be using county land and funds for the project, the project triggered the need for an environmental assessment, according to the study.
The draft report states that there may be human burials in the sand dunes on the site and that archaeological monitoring will need to be undertaken for "all earth moving activities carried out on this portion of the Puuone sand dune." There was no evidence of human remains on the site during an archaeological inventory survey, though the assessment noted that the Puuone sand dune is well-known for containing burials from the period before the arrival of Westerners.
The traffic assessment reported no major issues, saying that the Maui Lani Parkway-Mahalani Street intersection and others in the area "will operate at an acceptable level of service."
Hospice Maui's draft environmental assessment was released March 27, and it anticipates a finding of no significant impact.
The public has until May 23 to submit comments on the project to consultant Munekiyo & Hiraga Inc., 305 High St., Suite 104, Wailuku 96793, Attention: Erin Mukai.
The draft environmental assessment may be found online at health.hawaii.gov/oeqc by clicking on "Current Environmental Notice."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.